Align Align Align

At the Walden residencies one of the themes you hear over and over again is Align, Align, Align. But what does that really mean? Alignment refers to the elements of a research study building on one another in a logical manner.

At residency 3 you work on the historic alignment tool, or the HAT. This tool helps you accomplish the alignment of the main elements of a research study. One element leads to the next, which leads to the next. If you answer “no” to any of the following questions, the study is not aligned.

  • Is the topic directly related to my specialization?
  • Does the background research show evidence of a problem?
  • Is there a gap in understanding of the problem?
  • Does the problem align to the purpose?
  • Does the purpose align to the research question?
  • Does the theoretical or conceptual framework logically help answer the research questions?
  • Does the research question drive the methodology?

These are the exact questions your mentor, methodologist, and the URR will be asking when reviewing your premise, prospectus, proposal, and final dissertation. So, how do you keep alignment in the forefront of your mind when entertaining potential ideas for a research study? An important step is to realize that the central research question will determine the wording of both the purpose statement and the dissertation title.

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The purpose statement, the central research question, and the dissertation title should all be parallel, and quite possibly word for word the same.

Purpose = Central Research Question = Dissertation Title

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Picking a Dissertation Topic is like Choosing a Wedding Dress

Finding a dissertation topic is like choosing a wedding dress. For some, she knew all along what she wanted, and its the dress she sticks with. For others, she has a general idea of what she wants, but waits for the ah-ha moment of when trying on dresses. She looks tirelessly for the dress that matches what she had envisioned. She goes to every store, tries on every dress, and then one day, looks in the mirror and say, “YES! I found it!”

How picking a dissertation topic is like choosing a wedding dress.

Some have the dress picked out, but when she gets to the store, the dress is already taken by someone else. So crushed….she moves on and searches for another dress, but none seem to measure up to the “dream dress” she had hoped for (and she seems to always be bitter about that).

For others, nothing she tries on seems to be just right. So she keeps looking. She narrows it down to several dresses that would “work” but receives no gut response about it being “the one.”  Eventually, a dress is picked for one reason or another (cost, looks nice, mom likes its, easiest to alter…etc). Essentially, the dress works, and gets her down the isle wearing white.

While I won’t dissect the entire analogy for you (you are–after all– PhD students), I will say; do not wait for the ah-ha moment regarding your dissertation topic. It may never happen and you’ll still be ABD. Do the best with what interests you and what will allow you to finish. While I’m all about taking time to determine good fit for your dissertation topic, you need to get started in order to finish. Good luck!

Would love to hear how your “dress story” compares with how you find your dissertation topic!

~Dr. Harland

Dissertation obstacles

I extended a challenge to some of my course work students to study this photo (that I took in Jamestown, Virginia) and had them each share a quote about the PhD journey that might go with it. I love how the wall and the tree seem to be connected…I’m actually unsure of which came first; The goal or the obstacle? Obstacles are really growth opportunities, even if at the time we don’t see it that way!

As you study this photo, I’m sure you can think of all sorts of analogies for this photo and your Walden life; but know that the road to finishing your PhD will be bumpy, but that the obstacles in your way will provide growth. And growth, no matter how slow, is happening, and will make a difference long-term; just like the connection between this wall and tree.


I also think the juxtaposition of the old brick fence and the modern metal fence (in the background) might lend itself to some philosophical discussion too! Anyone want to chime in?

The wind,

~Dr. Darci

Welcome to No ABD for Me

Yeah! Congratulations, you’re almost done with your coursework and so now you’re beginning to get serious about your allusive dissertation topic.  The looming dissertation is the last, albeit rather large, hurdle you must move through before you earn that title of Doctor. And you’ve worked too hard to become an “All But Dissertation” (ABD) statistic.

No ABD for me…No ABD for me…No ABD for me…

Is this your mantra? Do those around you keep reminding you to push forward? While I’m sure you’re enjoying the journey, at some point the attitude is “I just want to finish!”

I’ve decided that in order to streamline my ability to mentor you through the dissertation mentoring process I will post my tips for getting through the dissertation journey here on this blog. My hope is help you answer the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer?

How do you eat an elephant/finish the dissertation? One Small piece at a time; from
In this blog we’ll break the elephant (dissertation) into smaller pieces so that it doesn’t seem so overwhelming.

Whether you’re a Walden University Dr. D Mentee or you found this resource by accident, let’s do this!

~Dr. Darci